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Deforestation a problem in Indonesia

TIME : 2016/2/25 13:50:07

Indonesia is one of the world’s most beautiful countries. It also has has the world’s worst deforestation problem. The large population, confronted with poverty, low-level infrastructure and education, often view nature as something to be tapped faster than the next guy can tap. A recent article in the Jakarta Post pulls no punches about the issue.

Mr. President, sack the forestry minister

Opinion and Editorial – July 21, 2007

Bramantyo Prijosusilo, Ngawi, East Java

It is quite alarming that with the desperate conditions our forests are in, the Forestry Minister has sought to influence the course of justice (at the early stage of law enforcement) by suggesting police chiefs in Riau and Papua be sacked because of their efforts to break illegal logging and the mafia in their provinces.

One might have imagined the efforts of the police would have been applauded by the forestry ministry, but a lot of the deforestation in this country has been done legally. So perhaps it’s best to appreciate the forestry ministry is as much of a problem as it is a solution to our national forestry crisis. To say nothing of the global crisis we have added to.

At the beginning of our efforts to profit from our previously vast areas of rain forest, lack of knowledge, information and participation fueled our disregard for the environment.

Huge tracts of forest were chopped down by concession holders. With neither proper analysis of the environmental impact of logging activities nor consultation with all the stake-holders — particularly the forest communities who had lived there since the beginning of human dreams.

Maps were drawn and rights were granted and areas as big as countries were laid bare by the chainsaw and the bulldozer.

Travel by road through Sumatra or by river through Kalimantan and you will find practically no jungle left. Riau, the birthplace of our language, Bahasa Indonesia, is no more the beautiful province of wild honey-bees, sophisticated villagers who tap their private rubber trees and compose pantun poetry.

Much of it has been transformed into environmentally unsound plantations of oil palm and wood for paper pulp. The society has been fragmented and is now unable to sell their labor to the industries of paper, palm or oil, marginalized in their own birthplace.

The rich, black soil under a jungle has a very fragile structure and when vast areas are logged bare and left through a rainy season, the monsoon waters carry all the fertile topsoil down river to the sea.

What you have left is a young desert and anything you plant there will struggle to survive. The plants in the vast plantations of Riau appear sickly; the soil they grow on is red and unfertile. This means the plants must demand heavy inputs of man-made chemical fertilizers and pesticides to survive.

I imagine there are thousands of Riau or Papua born policeman who warmly welcomed the apparent political will to stop illegal logging not too long ago.

But it must be painful to be a policeman helplessly witnessing forests of your birthplace being taken away by powerful people whom you’ve never met.

In the past it appeared the logging mafia was too powerful to be halted. On the ground they were dangerous to oppose but profitable to help.

The international shaming of Indonesia in regard to its deforestation and the renewed national political will to stop illegal logging might have been the jump-start the police needed to swing into action. They were in the midst of doing their job when the forestry minister stepped in to interfere with the course of justice.

No one should be above the law and the minister of forestry should feel ashamed of his conduct and apologize for attempting to intimidate and discredit the police chiefs in Riau and Papua. These policemen have, despite their shortcomings, been working hard on the dangerous task that has never yet been completed successfully: tackling and bringing down the logging mafia.

The honorable minister claimed he had looked through the cases the police had worked on and saw they had made too many mistakes. It might be true that our policemen made mistakes in Riau and Papua illegal logging cases. Everyone makes mistakes and we all know that our police force often blunders.

The police making mistakes should come as no surprise, but surely our legal system has ways to hold police accountable for the mistakes they make without a politician making a request to sack them.

By attempting to abuse his political power to sack the chiefs of police in Riau and Papua, our minister is causing widespread damage. Not only will now the police feel hindered in their job but the profiteers in deforestation will feel they have been given a morale boost.

From a cultural perspective, our honorable minister has jeopardized our efforts to build a democracy based on a civil society and set us back to the old New Order mode of governance. How can a democracy work if politicians interfere in the administration of justice?

From a sociological perspective, such an unpopular and unintelligent move as this erodes public support for the government he is in, making him a liability rather than an asset for the President.

From a political perspective, as a minister from an Islamic political party, he takes away all the credibility in the anti-corruption talk his party claims to stand for. From an environmental perspective his action represent madness. Internationally our minister’s effort to sack the two police chiefs is a total embarrassment as it provides one more vivid illustration to further strengthen the opinion that we can’t get our act together to save our forests.

The case of the forestry minister wanting to get the police chiefs of Riau and Papua sacked should be seen as an opportunity for Indonesia to prove to the world and to the people of this country that the government is concerned with the development of a civil society, with the eradication of corruption, and most importantly, with the conservation of our fragile natural resources.

The very fact a politician has blatantly tried to interfere with the course of justice is a reason to seize the this moment.

We must use this opportunity to further strengthen the morale of our police in their attempts to shatter the deforestation mafia in this country.

Rather than asking the chief of police in Jakarta to sack his brave policemen in Riau and Papua, we should demand the President sack his forestry minister.

The writer is a rice farmer and artist living in Ngawi, East Java.

The other day I saw a banyan tree that had been chopped in half, the remnants at the side of the road. In Bali they aren’t supposed to be able to cut those down. Bali is has a ton of forested land and hopefully measures will be taken to ensure the best parts survive.